Enid Blyton and me
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Apart from textbooks and school reading books, we didn't grow up with books - Mother viewed them as frippery, and said there was enough clutter and mess in a house full of six children without encouraging us to hoard even more.
I went to the library with my oldest brother when I was about six, and he let me take out a book on his card. However, after spilling a dot of curry on one of the pages while reading at the dinner table, I was terrified I would be taken to jail for despoiling private property. I didn't return to the library for many years.
The first time I bought a book was at the age of around eight, while sheltering from the rain in Blackburn's Darwen Street. My sisters and I had been into town, without our parents, and were now sheltering in a Children's Society charity shop. It wasn't a shop we had gone into before, Asian families at the time not wanting to be seen rummaging around other people's cast-offs, but for me it was an Aladdin's cave - only filled with shelves and shelves of books, rather than jewels.
After a whip-round, and promises to do the others' chores for the coming week, I left the shop with a carrier bag in each hand, filled with treasures by Enid Blyton: slightly creased paperbacks from Armada and the jewel-coloured hardbacks of Dean & Son. I devoured the books, whipping through one a day, immersed in the world of smugglers, dastardly crooks and the wonders of the Enchanted Wood. There was no price on being able to escape to worlds far removed from the cobblestones and slates of my childhood, where the only green space was the rough patch of ground by the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
Through Enid Blyton and her incredible imagination and ability to get into the head of a child, I learned to love books unconditionally, for what they promised and how they made me feel. Her books may not have aged well, but as a child I didn't see any of the faults - all I knew was that I couldn't wait to discover if Fatty and the other Find-Outers would solve the mystery of the pantomime cat, or how Jo, Bessie and Fanny would stop the Faraway Tree from being attacked by goblins.
Enid Blyton instilled in me a lifelong love of words, a child's sense of wonder and the desire to spin my own stories, and for that I will be truly grateful.